George Petrie (1828 – 1902), a young New York City businessman, was instrumental in the founding of the YMCA in New York City after being inspired by his visits to the London YMCA while visiting the Great Exhibition of 1850. Petrie brought back literature on the London facilities and organized a committee around the ideas of the London YMCA.
With the help of Mercer Street Presbyterian’s Rev. Isaac Ferris, Petrie set up a temporary facility in rooms on the third floor of the old New York City Lyceum at 659 Broadway. Many men new to the city, flocked to the YMCA, using its library and meeting place, network of friends and surrogate family, and help in finding housing, churches, and jobs with YMCA businessman backers. The idea was to promote the improvement of the spiritual, mental and social conditions of young men.